Throughout re:Invent 2015, Amazon Web Services (AWS) launched close to half a dozen new services like QuickSight, WAF, Inspector, AWS IoT, Elasticsearch, and more. AWS has greatly matured over the years along with the challenge of maintaining a simple and intuitive user experience. AWS officially came into existence in 2006, but because APIs were used first, the AWS Management Console was only launched in January 2009. As part of our goal to enhance cloud user experience, we decided to research the evolution of the AWS UI Console, and have shared our review below.
Prior to launching the AWS Management Console, there were lots of third party interactive UI tools available on the web that allowed you to manage your AWS resources (e.g., ElasticFox – Mozilla Plugin). In 2009, the AWS Management Console was initially launched to provide a point and click interface to Amazon EC2 services despite the fact that SQS and S3 services were launched before EC2.
The AWS Management Console had a nicely designed UI and was pretty easy to use given that all services were launched in a single tab. However, that would not be the case later on.
The next service that made way to the AWS Management Console was the Amazon Elastic MapReduce (EMR) service, which was launched on April 02, 2009. During that same year, Amazon added support for CloudFront as well as more support for various other existing features (e.g., Elastic Load Balancing and security groups) to the AWS Management Console. Amazon VPC was also launched in 2009, but was not supported by the Management Console.
In 2010, AWS added new features to existing services in the AWS Management Console, and launched new services, such as Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS) and Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS) that April. However, neither service was supported on the Management Console when they were launched. AWS then added RDS and S3 support in the Management Console in May and June 2010 (as shown below).
AWS added new features to existing services as well, such as an invalidation feature for CloudFront, support for reduced redundancy storage in S3, and CloudWatch monitoring for EBS volumes. Towards the end of 2010, Amazon VPC and Amazon SNS were added to the AWS Management Console. The other services that were launched by AWS but not added to the Management Console were Amazon VPC and Amazon Route53.
2011 was one of the most crucial years for AWS, because new, high impact services were launched. It started with the launch of the AWS PaaS solution, Elastic Beanstalk. CloudWatch was then introduced as a separate service in the AWS Management Console, and other services that were launched at that time included Amazon Simple Email Service (SES), AWS CloudFormation, AWS Direct Connect and Amazon Elasticache. Among all newly launched AWS services, AWS Direct Connect was the only one that didn’t make it to the Management Console. Along with these newly launched services, Amazon Route53, Amazon IAM and SQS support were added to the Management Console. As you can see below, these services were added as new tabs, which made the experience more complicated considering the fact that all service names were still new to users.
AWS started 2012 aggressively, and launched three new services within the first two months: Amazon DynamoDB, AWS Storage Gateway and Amazon Simple WorkFlow Service (SWF). This ignited the discussion about ‘congestion’ in the AWS Management UI Console where there was no room for additional service tabs.
The launch of Amazon CloudSearch pushed AWS to come up with a dropdown ‘more’ button that listed all of the available options.
Finally, DirectConnect support was added to the Management Console in August 2012 and a new, revamped AWS Management Console was silently launched. The new Management Console grouped the available services under different categories such as compute and networking, database, storage and content delivery, deployment and management, and app services. It also provided an option to pin the services you used most to the top bar. In addition to launching new services in the Management Console in 2012, AWS also enhanced user experience for existing services by revamping their existing consoles with new features.
The last service launched in 2012 was Amazon RedShift, and the first two services that were launched in 2013 were Amazon OpsWorks and Elastic Transcoder.
AWS CloudHSM was the third service launched during the first quarter of 2013 but was not available on the Management Console. The second and third quarters in 2013 focused more on enhancing services, and the fourth quarter was full of launches that were included in the Management Console: AWS CloudTrail, Amazon AppStream, Amazon Workspaces and Amazon Kinesis. One of AWS’ most popular features also made its way into the Management Console towards end of 2013 – Auto Scaling.
In mid 2014, AWS launched a few more services: Amazon Mobile Analytics, Amazon Cognito and Amazon Zocalo. Trusted Advisor was also included in the Management Console around the same time. During the last quarter of 2014, before re:Invent 2014, AWS launched AWS Directory Service. Then, during re:Invent 2014, AWS launched a series of major services like AWS Key Management Service (KMS), AWS CodeDeploy, AWS Config, Amazon EC2 Container Service and AWS Lambda.
At the end of 2014, AWS launched Resource Groups and a Tag Editor, which slightly changed certain aspects of the AWS Management Console UI.
As of re:Invent 2015, there are 52 listed services in the AWS Management Console. And with all of the more recent launches, it seems, yet again, that there is a need to revamp it.
Reviewing the changes that have been made to the AWS Management Console from 2009 to 2015 demonstrates the rate at which AWS sped up innovation and time to market over the years. It’s impressive to see how innovative AWS is, however aside from the fact that delivering data center as a service to millions of users is a challenging task, maintaining a simple UI that can support user needs is even more so. It will be interesting to see where the AWS Management Console is six years from now.
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